The armed forces modernisation plan would not be affected in any way by a recommended 10 per cent cut in the defence budget in the next fiscal [2013-14], Defence Minister A.K. Antony said on Wednesday. There would be “no compromise on national security.”
At a news conference after inaugurating the ninth Aero India 2013 here, Mr. Antony admitted that the talk of a budget cut (amounting to around Rs. 10,000-15,000 crore for his Ministry), as suggested by the Finance Ministry to all Ministries was “painful, indeed.” However, there was no escape from it when the world was affected by recession.
“All departments are asked to keep their budgets tight. Of course, [a] cut affects our department also but not the priority areas. In areas of operational preparedness of the armed forces there will not be any kind of cut, but it may spill over to the next financial year in some other areas.”
The Defence Acquisition Policy would be updated in the coming fiscal.
The government wanted to complete the acquisition of 126-plus medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for the IAF at the earliest, Mr. Antony said. It was “carefully negotiating” the purchase details with the selected bidder Dassault Aviation for its Rafale fighters, “a six to seven layered procedure that cannot be cut short.”
Mr. Antony clarified that the criteria in the request for proposal for the MMRCAs were final and non-negotiable, setting at rest speculation that their licensed production may be curtailed or taken out of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
Asked about the Chinese presence at the air show, Mr. Antony said it was welcome. Even though the two countries had outstanding border issues, they were interacting in all areas, including defence.